This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

THE NEO-POLITICAL COWGIRLS: ANDROMEDA’S SISTERS

Who: Blythe Danner, Susie Essman, Tamara Tunie, Catherine Curtin, Joy Behar, Laura Gomez, Ellen Dolan, Florencia Lozano, Welker White, Portia, Kathryn Grody, Nehassaiu DeGannes, Dahlia Lithwick, Amy Spitalnick, Roberta Kaplan, Kerry Kennedy, more
What: An Arts and Advocacy Forum in Two Parts
Where: Zoom link sent with ticket purchase
When: Friday, August 14, 7:00, and Thursday, September 3, 5:00, $25-$120
Why: In June 2019, the nonprofit organization the Neo-Political Cowgirls presented “Andromeda’s Sisters,” what they called a “Two Day Gala of Powerful Arts and Advocacy” at Guild Hall. The event featured workshops and one-act readings by an all-star lineup of actresses performing monologues by female-identifying playwrights. The cast is now reuniting for a virtual restaging and expansion, beginning August 14 at 7:30, with Blythe Danner as accused Salem witch Goody Garlick in a work written for her by Lucy Boyle; Catherine Curtin as a wife who discovers her husband is cheating on her in a monologue written for her by Joy Behar; Florencia Lozano as the other woman in Dipti Bramhandkar’s The Funeral; Laura Gomez as a woman who visits a sex shop in Bramhandkar’s Brown Girl’s Guide to Self-Pleasure; Welker White as the title character in Lynn Grossman’s BITCH; Ellen Dolan as a mother and a grandmother in Sarah Bierstock’s MAD (Mothers and Daughters); Tanya Everett’s One Thousand Miles, about a relationship webinar; Portia reading the late poet June Jordan’s “A Poem About My Rights”; a movement piece by Mia Funk; and two extracts from choreographer Vanessa Walters’s ongoing “Ripening” project.

Founded in 2007 by Kate Mueth, the Neo-Political Cowgirls “are committed to making work for women and about women — to creating a space where women and girls from all walks of life can share their experiences, joys, concerns, and spirits through professional dance.” The gala gets its name from the legend in which Princess Andromeda, captured by Poseidon, is saved by the daughters of the God of the Sea, leading to the idea that sisters should seek to help one another in these difficult times. As the NPC website asserts, “When we ‘swim’ to help our sisters, even if it may go against our own best interests in the moment, it's astounding what can happen for all of those involved.” The second part takes place on September 3 and focuses on advocacy, with journalist Dahlia Lithwick interviewing Amy Spitalnick of Integrity First for America and litigator Roberta Kaplan about their upcoming court case against neo-Nazis; a cocktail hour; Kerry Kennedy giving the keynote address about fighting femicide; and Gomez, Curtin, and Lozano reading from Kennedy’s 2000 book, Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World. Tickets are $25 ($50 with donation) for the monologues and readings at both parts and $120 for those in addition to the cocktail hour and access to breakaway rooms with some of the invited guests.

JACOB’S PILLOW: BEREISHIT DANCE COMPANY AND MORE

Bereishit Dance Company’s BOW is part of Jacob’s Pillow Virtual Festival (photo © Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow)

Who: Bereishit Dance Company, Maura Keefe, Soon-ho Park
What: Virtual festival stream of dance and discussion
Where: Jacob’s Pillow YouTube
When: Thursday, August 13, free, 7:00 (available through August 15 at midnight)
Why: While you can’t head out to the Berkshires to watch dance at historic Jacob’s Pillow, you can catch highlights from the last ten years at home during the institution’s Virtual Festival, which continues through August 29. On August 13 at 7:00, you can see two works from Bereishit Dance Company’s 2016 Pillow debut, streamed in conjunction with the Korean Cultural Center New York: the male duet BOW_CONTROL from BOW, which incorporates the Korean art of archery into its movement, reimagining the bow as a musical instrument instead of a weapon; and Balance & Imbalance, featuring five dancers, two drummers, and a pansori singer exploring action and reaction in nature. The performance will be preceded by a talk with Pillow scholar-in-residence Maura Keefe and followed by a discussion with Bereishit founder and choreographer Soon-ho Park. The free stream will be available through August 15 at midnight. The festival has previously featured such companies and choreographers as Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Desmond Richardson, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Sascha Radetsky, Limón Dance Company, and Ballet Hispánico; coming up are Aszure Barton, Tero Saarinen Company & the Boston Camerata, Ami Shulman, and more.

HAM4CHANGE: A VIRTUAL FUNDRAISER EVENT

ham4change

Who: Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Christopher Jackson, Jonathan Groff, Brian d’Arcy James, Rory O’Malley, Andrew Rannells, Neil Haskell, Andrew Chappelle, Thayne Jasperson, Morgan Marcell, Javier Muñoz, Seth Stewart, Betsy Struxness, Sasha Hutchings
What: Livestreamed fundraisers with behind-the-scenes look at Hamilton, trivia, games, prizes, original content, and more
Where: Looped Live
When: Saturday, August 1, $10.75, 1:00; Sunday, August 9, 1:00; Saturday, August 15, 7:00
Why: Even with Broadway shut down, Hamilton continues to have an impact on theater and the world at large, particularly through criticism of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s treatment of slavery in the show, particularly in conjunction with the filmed version now streaming on Disney+. In the meantime, original cast members of the musical have organized Ham4Change, three online presentations to raise money for When We All Vote, LEAP (Law Enforcement Accountability Project), BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective), Until Freedom, Color of Change, Dance4Hope, Know Your Rights Camp, BAI (Black AIDS Institute), and the African American Policy Forum. The program, featuring trivia, games, prizes, original content, and more, begins August 1 with Hamilton originals Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Christopher Jackson, and Jonathan Groff and special guests Brian d’Arcy James, Rory O’Malley, Andrew Rannells, Neil Haskell, Andrew Chappelle, Thayne Jasperson, Morgan Marcell, Javier Muñoz, Seth Stewart, and Betsy Struxness, hosted by Sasha Hutchings. Tickets are $10.75; VIP packages include Virtual Meet & Greets with many of the stars ($75) and Digital Fan Experiences with Groff, Muñoz, and Struxness ($1,000 each). The series continues August 9 at 1:00 and August 15 at 7:00; participants have yet to be announced.

BROADWAY BARES: ZOOM IN

broadway bares

Who: Broadway performers and celebrity guests Jane Krakowski, Nathan Lane, Beth Leavel, Judith Light, Christopher Sieber, Wesley Taylor, more TBA
What: Broadway Bares charity event
Where: Broadway Cares, YouTube, other outlets
When: Saturday, August 1, free, 9:30
Why: Since 1992, theater actors and special celebrity guests have been taking it off for charity in the ever-popular Broadway Bares gala, stripteasing to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. From an inaugural take of eight grand that first year, the event raised more than two million dollars in 2019. Founded by Jerry Mitchell, who directed the 1992 production with the cast of The Will Rogers Follies at Splash bar, the show goes online this year, offering viewers prime seating to zoom in and enjoy the festivities, which will include new, socially distanced dances as well as past highlights. “We’re so excited to bring the heat of Broadway Bares to screens around the world for the first time with Broadway Bares: Zoom In,” Tony winner Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Hairspray, The Full Monty) said in a statement. “This year’s performers have gone full-out in both their show-stopping dance moves and desire to make a difference. You’ve got to Zoom In because it’s sure to make your laptop tingle and your cell phone vibrate!” You can watch for free via multiple online sites, but donations are strongly encouraged, with proceeds helping those affected by HIV/AIDS, Covid-19, and other critical illnesses in addition to organizations focusing on social justice and anti-racism. The first round of celebrity stars have been announced, and it’s pretty cool: Jane Krakowski, Nathan Lane, Beth Leavel, Judith Light, Christopher Sieber, and Wesley Taylor, with more to come.

TWI-NY TALK — JANET BIGGS: AUGMENTATION AND AMPLIFICATION

ary Esther Carter reunites with A.I. Anne, Richard Savery, and Janet Biggs for Fridman Gallery pandemic commission (photo courtesy Janet Biggs)

Mary Esther Carter reunites with A.I. Anne, Richard Savery, and Janet Biggs for site-specific Fridman Gallery commission (photo courtesy Janet Biggs)

Who: Mary Esther Carter, Richard Savery, A.I. Anne, Janet Biggs
What: Final presentation of “SO⅃OS: a space of limit as possibility”
Where: Fridman Gallery online
When: Thursday, July 30, $5 for access to all twelve performances, 8:00
Why: In July 2019, I experienced multimedia artist Janet Biggs’s workshop presentation of her work-in-progress performance of How the Light Gets In, an extraordinary collaboration at the New Museum exploring the ever-growing relationship between humans and technology, with singer and dancer Mary Esther Carter; machine learning program A.I. Anne; composer and music technologist Richard Savery; drummer Jason Barnes, who lost an arm in an accident so uses a robotic prosthesis; marathon runner Brian Reynolds, a double (below-knee) amputee who is fitted with carbon fiber running prostheses; and violinists Earl Maneein and Mylez Gittens.

The Pennsylvania-born, Brooklyn-based Biggs has traveled to unusual places all over the world for her video installations, including a sulfur mine in the Ijen volcano in East Java (A Step on the Sun), the Taklamakan desert in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (Point of No Return), a coal mine in the Arctic (Brightness All Around), the crystal caverns below the German Merkers salt mine (Can’t Find My Way Home), and the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah (Vanishing Point). She’s also all set to go to Mars after several simulated adventures.

During the pandemic lockdown, Biggs has been hunkering down at home with her her husband and occasional cinematographer, Bob Cmar, and their cat, Hooper, but that hasn’t kept her from creating bold and inventive new work. On July 30, she will debut the site-specific multimedia performance piece Augmentation and Amplification, concluding the Fridman Gallery’s terrific “SO⅃OS” series, cutting-edge performances made during the coronavirus crisis that incorporate the empty gallery space on Bowery, delving into the feeling of isolation that hovers over us all. (The program also features Daniel Neumann’s Soundcheck, Luke Stewart’s Unity Elements, Abigail Levine’s Fat Chance, Hermes, and Diamanda Galás’s Broken Gargoyles, among others; a five-dollar fee gives you access to all the works.)

In her third conversation with twi-ny, Biggs takes us behind the scenes of her latest innovative, boundary-pushing project.

twi-ny: You’re so used to traveling. What’s it been like being stuck at home?

janet biggs: Working on the performance has been a saving grace for me — to have something to focus on that feels exciting. But it has also had its share of interesting challenges.

twi-ny: How did it come about?

jb: I was asked by experimental sound artist and audio engineer Daniel Neumann if I would be interested in doing a performance for the series he was organizing for Fridman Gallery. The premise was that he would set up the gallery space with audio mics, projectors, and cameras, clean the whole space, and leave. The performer would be given a code to the lock on the gallery so they could safely enter the space by themselves and perform within shelter-in-place guidelines. During the performance, Daniel mixes the sound remotely from his home and livestreams it.

I loved his premise, but I don’t perform. I direct. I said I was eager to figure out a way to direct from home and send both a live performer and an Artificial Intelligence entity into the space. Both Daniel and gallery owner and director Iliya Fridman were excited about my proposal and gave complete support to the idea.

twi-ny: And then you turned to Mary Esther Carter and Richard Savery.

jb: Yes, I reached out to Mary and Richard, both of whom I worked with on the performance you saw at the New Museum. Happily, they were up for the challenge.

(photo courtesy Janet Biggs)

Richard Savery, Janet Biggs, and Mary Esther Carter rehearse Augmentation and Amplification over Zoom (photo courtesy Janet Biggs)

twi-ny: Which led you back to A.I. Anne.

jb: Richard has been working on expanding A.I. Anne’s abilities and neural diversity. A.I. Anne was trained on Mary’s voice and named for my aunt, who was autistic and had apraxia. Since the performance last year, A.I. Anne has gained more agency through deep machine learning and semantic knowledge. The entity can now express and respond to emotion. We are also using phenotypic data and first-person accounts of people on the autism spectrum for vocal patterning.

We want to explore neural diversity and inclusion in creative collaborations between humans and machines. Our challenge was how to get A.I. Anne in the gallery so she could perform live. A.I. is a disembodied virtual entity. Richard lives in Atlanta. While A.I. Anne is autonomous, Richard needed to be able to receive a single audio channel of Mary’s voice from the gallery and then send back a single channel audio response from A.I. Anne. With strong wifi and the right software, our tests from Atlanta to the gallery have been successful, so keep your fingers crossed for Thursday.

twi-ny: What was it like collaborating long distance?

jb: I’ve been having rehearsals with Mary and Richard for the last couple weeks via Zoom. We have been able to work out the choreography remotely and even developed some new camera angles due to the constraints of cellphone cameras and apartment sizes. The percussive soundtrack that Mary will dance to was generated by EEG sonification, the process of turning data into sound. Richard developed a process where he could use his brainwaves to control a drumset, creating a kind of brain-beat.

And lastly, I’ve been editing video images. Some will be projected on walls in the gallery and some will be a video overlay, run by the streaming software so that we essentially will have multiple layers of images and live action. If all goes well, I think this will be a pretty exciting performance.

twi-ny: Is that all? You don’t exactly make things easy for yourself.

jb: I’ve been to the gallery myself to see the layout and make some staging/lighting decisions. I will send Daniel a floor plan marked with my staging decisions and a tech-script. Daniel will set up the space (projector angles, lighting, camera and microphone placements) during the day on Thursday and then completely clean the space. Thursday evening, Mary will enter the space alone. Richard will run A.I. Anne from his computer in Atlanta. Daniel will mix the sound and images remotely into a livestream Vimeo channel that the audience can access from their homes. And I’ll be watching from home, holding my breath that everything works!

92Y MOBILE DANCE FILM FESTIVAL

mobile-dance-film-festival-2020

Who: Dancers from all around the world
What: Third annual 92Y Harkness Dance Center festival of works recorded on mobile devices
Where: 92Y online
When: July 25 - August 31, $5
Why: It would be easy to jump to conclusions and assume that the 92nd St. Y’s Mobile Dance Film Festival is the result of the pandemic lockdown, where all of us, artists included, do not have access to studios and stages and professional equipment. But in fact this is third annual event, although there is a new category this year consisting of films made during quarantine: Alexander Dampbell and Anthoula Syndica-Drummond’s Where We Are, Charly Wenzel’s PAUSE, DanielRose Project’s Small Jumps, Davide Arneodo’s Intermission, Diego Funes’s Absence, Kit McDaniel’s BAD DREAM, Laura Ardner’s Working Hard or Hardly Working?, Liz Curtis’s Quarantined Corps, Marta Renzi’s Dancing Is an Old Friend, Maxfield Haynes’s Don’t Rush (feat. A Few of the Black Men of the Concert Dance World), Milie Nelson’s THE RED ZONE, Valentina Cayota’s COVIDEO, and Vashti Goracke’s To Connect.

The four programs total thirty works from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Uruguay, and the US, in addition to the new documentary “Bent But Not Broken,” which will be followed by a discussion with director Paige Fraser, choreographer Rena Butler, and MDFF curator Andrew Chapman, who explained in a statement, “Even as film and dance artists face some of the most difficult times during the pandemic when it comes to creating, they have not let these difficulties stand in the way of their need or ability to work. They have done what creative people do: taken what they have available and made art.” The streams begin on July 25 at 8:00 and will remain available through August 31; $5 gets you in to see everything.

EIGHTH ANNUAL LAKE TAHOE DANCE FESTIVAL

lake tahoe dance festival

Who: Lake Tahoe Dance Collective and special guests
What: Virtual dance festival
Where: Lake Tahoe Dance Collective home page
When: July 22-24, free (suggested donation $25), 9:00 EDT (each performance will be available for twenty-four hours)
Why: One of the glass-half-full results of the pandemic is that we’ve been able to experience live dance, music, theater, art, film, and more online from all over the planet, visiting companies we usually don’t get the chance to see. This week we can travel virtually to one of America’s most ravishing areas for the eighth annual Lake Tahoe Dance Festival. “This year's festival offers us a format where we can not only continue but enhance our mission with the breadth of works and artists we are fortunate to have as collaborators,” artistic director Christin Hanna said in a statement. “This is a fantastic opportunity to hear about the works from the artists themselves, framed in an evening programmed to weave the works together. When faced with the inability to have a festival, we knew we had a unique opportunity. As piece by piece came together, Constantine [Baecher] and I grew more excited at the ability to weave a bit of dance history and education into the three evenings. For those who have never been to our festival, this year will reach around the world to showcase North Lake Tahoe as a stunning, beautiful backdrop for dance.”

The festival will take place over three days, with the Lake Tahoe Dance Collective presenting American Classical Ballet on July 22, Mid-Century Modern Dance on July 23, and Dance Now: Contemporary Works on July 23; each show will stream live at 9:00 and remain available for viewing for twenty-four hours. The festival will include archival and new works from such choreographers as Agnes de Mille, Jacopo Godani, Martha Graham, Marco Pelle, Paul Taylor, and Antony Tudor, with special guests Daniel Baudendistel, Ashley Bouder, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Kristin Draucker, Daphne Fernberger, Stephen Hanna, Lloyd Knight, and Wendy Whelan. You can get a taste of what to expect by checking out this preview discussion between Hanna and “Conversations on Dance” podcast hosts Michael Sean Breeden and Rebecca King Ferraro. There is a suggested donation of $25, as this is a benefit fundraiser; if you give more than $75, you get a festival T-shirt and commemorative wineglass.

Wednesday, July 22
American Classical Ballet: Agnes de Mille’s The Other with Stephen Hanna and Abi Stafford, Antony Tudor’s Jardin aux Lilas with members of the New York Theatre Ballet, Lauren Lovette’s Red Spotted Purple with Ashley Bouder, and George Balanchine’s Apollo with Adrian Danchig-Waring (filmed specifically for the festival), hosted by Christin Hanna and Constantine Baecher

Thursday, July 23
Mid-Century Modern Dance: Martha Graham’s Moon with Lloyd Knight and Wendy Whelan, Paul Taylor’s Cascade with Kristin Draucker, and Erick Hawkins’s Greek Dreams with Kristina Berger, hosted by Christin Hanna and Kristina Berger

Friday, July 24
Dance Now: Contemporary Works: Marco Pelle’s “T+I” with Stephen Hanna and Traci Finch, Jacopo Godani’s Al di Là with Ulysse Zangs and Daphne Fernberger, and Bryan Arias’s Notice with Arias and Rachel Fallon, hosted by Constantine Baecher and Marco Pelle